Warriors and hunters: what were gender roles in ancient times

Inspiration for Mulan

In May, it turned out that archaeologists had found the remains of two ancient

female warriors, whose skeletons indicate that they have successfully practiced archery and horseback riding.

The remains of an elderly female warrior (left) and her husband, which were excavated at the archaeological site of Ayragiin Gozgor in the Orkhon province of northern Mongolia.
Image: © Christine Lee

According to the researchers, the two women lived inthe Xianbei period (147–552 CE), a period of political fragmentation and unrest that led to the Ballad of Mulan. Perhaps these women were so athletic because they defended their homes and territories as well as men, suggest researchers Christine Lee and Yahaira Gonzalez, bioarchaeologists at California State University in Los Angeles.

Modern Mongols still believe that Mulan is not a Chinese warrior, she was a Mongolian from Syanbi - an ancient Mongolian tribe of nomads who lived in Inner Mongolia.

In the ballad, Mulan is described as an employee of the "khan"(the term is more often used in the context of the history of the Mongols), and there was no military service in China at that time, the researchers emphasize. So, perhaps, it was the Mongol women warriors who inspired the ancients to "The Ballad of Mulan". The remains of the skeletons of Mongol women have shown that they were skilled archers and horsemen and appear to have fought alongside and equally with men.

The remains of two female warriors were found during excavations of a cemetery at the Ayragiin Gozgor archaeological site in the Orkhon province of northern Mongolia.

Strong Big Game Hunter

A study published in November suggests that women in ancient America hunted big game as often as men.

Artistic reconstruction of the vicuna hunt in Wilamaya Patjxa. (Image credit: Matthew Verdolivo (UC Davis IET Academic Technology Services))

The new discovery is in stark contrast tothe generally accepted history of "male hunters" and "female gatherers". According to the old theory, ancient men hunted big game, while women collected herbs and plants. But the recently discovered 9,000-year-old burial of a female hunter and an analysis of the burials of other hunters suggests that the first women in ancient America hunted big game as often as men.

“These results underscore the idea thatgender roles that we take for granted in today's society - or that many take for granted - may not be the ultimate truth, ”said lead author Randy Haas, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis.

Researchers are excavating the Wilamaya Patjxa site in Peru. (Image credit: Randall Haas)

Further statistical analysis of the remains found showed that from 30 to 50% of hunters in the populations of the first Americans were women. They were also buried along with their weapons as honorary soldiers.

The Mayan Warrior Queen and her Great White Road

Laser scanning of the Great White Road,taken from the air in Mexico, proved that the ancient Maya people were a civilization of skilled builders. Its construction takes place at a time when a female warrior, a powerful queen named K'avil Ajo... According to study lead author TracyArdren, most likely, it was this ruler who ordered the construction of the road in the 7th century AD. Coba was at one time one of the most powerful cities of the ancient Maya world.

In recent years, archaeologists are increasingly using a new technology called lidar... This laser device allows"Look" through the dense jungle and even under the surface of the earth. Scientists at the University of Miami in the United States used it to study the Mayan Great White Road. Since its discovery in the 1930s, it has been extensively studied by scientists and increasingly referred to as a true engineering marvel. It connected the ancient cities of Koba and Yaksuna on the Yucatan Peninsula. The road is believed to have been built 13 centuries ago. The length of this "stone highway" is 100 km. This is the longest road built by the Maya.

Photo: Traci Ardren and Dominique Meyer / University of Miami

Stones were set along the road with carvedscenes on them. For example, the drawings depict warriors leading their captives along the Great White Road. Some of the captives are trampled by the rulers. Such engravings prompted scientists to conclude that the road was built to achieve military goals.

Archaeologists have explored the Mayan road using lidar technology to reveal ancient structures along its length.
Image: © Courtesy of Tracy Ardren (University of Miami), Proyecto Sacbe Yacuna-Coba and the Cultural Heritage Engineering Initiative

Probably, K'avil Ajo hatched plans to conquer the neighboring, smaller city of Yaksun, which occupied a strategically important position. At that time, the empire was gaining strength Chichen Itza, and the rulers of Koba tried their best to repel her attacks.

K'avil Ajo was one of the most powerful and warlike rulers of the ancient city of Coba, concludes archaeologist Travis Stanton of the University of California at Riverside.

Noble noblewoman in ancient China preferred polo

In March, scientists reported that they had found the first evidence that imperial Chinese nobles played polo on donkeys in the grave of a wealthy and powerful woman who died in Xi'an more than 2,000 years ago.

A woman named Cui Shi was buried along withher "horses", perhaps so that she "can continue playing polo in the afterlife," archaeologists say in a new study. Cui Shi's tomb was ransacked before it was discovered, and the thieves took most of the burial artifacts with them. However, the bones of the animals that were buried next to the noblewoman remained intact.

Tri-color glazed figurine of a donkey from Xi'an. (Image credit: Antiquity Publications Ltd / X. Hu and J. Han)

Records of the Tang Dynasty time period (618–907 BC)e.) prove that polo was popular among the upper classes of imperial China, despite the danger of the game. One historical account notes that Cui Shi's husband was not as skilled in the sport. During one of the matches, he lost an eye.

Ancient woman warrior of Siberia

Archaeologists in Siberia have unearthed a 2,500-year-old grave containing the remains of four people from the ancient Tagar culture, including two warriors, a man and a woman, as well as a cache of their weapons.

A man, two women and a child were buried in this grave about 2500 years ago on the territory of modern Siberia.
Image: Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Recall that the Tagar culture is an archaeological culture of the Bronze Age and Iron Age, named after the place name - Tagarsky Island on the Yenisei River. The Tagar culture was replaced by the Tashtyk culture.

The burial place of the early Iron Age containedthe remains of Tagar men, women, infants and elderly women, as well as many weapons and artifacts, including bronze daggers, knives, axes, bronze mirrors and a miniature animal horn comb.

Part of the metal inventory found in the group burial.
Image courtesy of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Tagar culture, part of the Scythian civilization(nomadic warriors who lived in what is now southern Siberia) often buried their dead with miniature versions of real objects, probably symbolizing property that, in their opinion, was necessary for the owners in the afterlife. However, in this case, the deceased were buried along with life-size objects, archaeologists emphasize.

A team from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography discovered a burial site in the southern part of Khakassia, a region in Siberia, before construction began on the railroad.

Aerial view of the grave mountain at the foot of the Aar-tag mountain.
Image courtesy of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The remains of a man and a woman who were probablydied at the age of 30–40 years, were found with large ceramic vessels next to each of them. According to the statement, the woman, like the man, had her own set of weapons (two bronze daggers and two axes). The woman's outfit also included a long-handled tool that most resembles a battle ax, said Oleg Andreevich Mitko, head of excavations and head of archeology at Novosibirsk State University.

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